A World Health Organization report estimates that around 1,11,500 children live with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (T1DM) at a time. In Type 1 diabetes, pancreatic cell clusters that produce insulin are killed off by the body's immune system. The disease is one of the most frequent paediatric endocrine illnesses & accounts for only about 5%-10% of all cases of diabetes.
A research team led by Cornell University has created a device that may help manage Type 1 Diabetes. This device helps implant 1000s of insulin-producing islet cells into a patient. The cells are protected by a thin hydrogel coating, which are attached to a polymer thread. The polymer thread makes it easy to remove & replace the cells, which have outlived their usefulness.
Long-Term Immunosuppressive medicine therapy allows the transplanting of stem cell-derived, insulin-producing islet cells as an alternate for insulin treatment.
Researchers already know that coating and protecting the cells in tiny hydrogel capsules, hundreds of microns in diameter helps in protecting the cells against any negative response by the immune system. But these capsules cannot be retrieved from the body easily, as they're isolated from each other, and there are hundreds of thousands of them. The ability to remove the transplant is vital to prevent potential tumours from forming.
The Cornell University team was inspired by the way water beads on a spider's web. They tried to join the islet cell-containing capsules through a string. They realised that it would be better to put the hydrogel layer uniformly around a string a thread made of ionized calcium-releasing, nanoporous polymer.
The thread known as TRAFFIC (Thread-Reinforced Alginate Fiber For Islets enCapsulation) - was inspired by a spider's web the key difference being that the hydrogel protects the thread uniformly.
Minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery would be required to insert the six feet of hydrogel-coated thread into a patient's peritoneal (stomach) cavity.